Almost 80% of veterans and serving personnel with health conditions struggle mentally as well
A major new survey by Help for Heroes shows the overwhelming majority (79%) of veterans and serving personnel with long-term health conditions in Scotland are struggling with their mental health on a daily basis.
This is six per cent higher than the figure for veterans and serving personnel with long-term health conditions who responded to the survey overall.
It also revealed that 85 per cent have sleep problems and 74% suffer from long-term pain, compared to 82% and 73% respectively who responded to the survey overall.
The military charity undertook the survey to better understand the needs of wounded veterans and their families, and to help it shape its unique services now and in the future.
Matt Neve, from Brechin, has had one-to-one support from Help for Heroes to help him recover from his psychological wounds. He joined the RAF in 2001 aged 16, straight out of school and at 18 he was deployed to Iraq.
Part of Matt’s role was to assist with the transportation of those injured to an aircraft that would repatriate them to the UK, and days, weeks and months of seeing and supporting comrades with horrific injuries eventually took its toll on his mental health, to the point where Matt became a casualty himself.
Leaving the tour changed Matt completely and the senior aircraftsman was medically discharged from the RAF in 2004. He said: “Even after I tried to take my life, I never accepted I had issues. It took me approximately 12 years to accept my problems and come forward for help.”
Matt was introduced to archery through Help for Heroes and a grant from the charity enabled him to buy his own kit, which led to him competing at the Invictus Games in Toronto in 2017 and he struck gold. He now competes regularly with his daughter, Megan, 14, who is also a big fan of the sport.
“The focus of archery, when I am looking down the range at the target, I just switch off and all the tension builds in the draw of the arrow and then it goes with the arrow when it’s released. It’s an escape.”
“Without Help for Heroes I wouldn’t be here,” added Matt. “The Hidden Wounds service is there to help veterans and their loved ones deal with the mental health battles we face because of our experiences and injuries. They’ve supported my family and I through some dark times, and I’d encourage everyone to support Help for Heroes so that other people can get that support when they need it too.”
Help for Heroes’ new data also shows that 76% of veterans and serving personnel with long-term health conditions in Scotland are unsure if they have the tools to manage their ailments, compared with 70% who responded to the survey overall.
More than 60 per cent say their physical health condition worsened during the pandemic, while 55% said their mental health deteriorated.
Sarah Jones, head of psychological wellbeing at Help for Heroes, said: “The data shows us that the physical and mental health of our veterans – and of their loved ones – continues to be of concern, both in the North-East and across the rest of the UK.
“Seventy per cent of veterans and serving personnel with long-term health conditions told us they are unsure if they have the tools to manage their long-term health condition and 80 per cent said they rely on the support of loved ones or charities in addition to, or instead of, statutory services.
“That’s why it’s so important we keep our promise to give wounded veterans and their families the help they need for as long as they need it. And why we’re now asking for donations to fund our vital services.”
With the mental health of veterans continuing to be of great concern, Help for Heroes is launching a fundraising campaign in November to ensure that all wounded veterans can get the specialist one-to-one support they need and deserve – and it hopes that the UK public will give generously at this annual time of Remembrance.
Help for Heroes relies on the generosity of the Great British public for over 90% of its income but has seen its recurring income fall considerably due to the impact of Covid-19. Its events income was down by 85%, income from its national collections reduced by 88% community fundraising income was down by 37% and in-memory income fell by 25%.
Now more than ever, the charity needs the public to respond to their appeal and donate to support our wounded veterans and families. To donate, visit the website.